Tea parity

Recently, I had the pleasure of popping into the Bronx Botanical Garden for a visit. They were running a show about medicinal herbs. And I expected to be unimpressed. This is textbook stuff for me, after all.

But surprisingly, the trip was quite informative. (And it’s running through September–so I encourage anyone living in or visiting this area to squeeze in a quick visit.)

Anyway, there happened to be a large booth on display that discussed the benefits of tea. This, of course, reminded me of the study I wrote about a few weeks ago, showing that green tea can lower blood sugar. (Raise your cup to lower blood sugar, 7/11/13)

That recent analysis of 17 clinical trials showed that green tea can drop your insulin concentrations, fasting glucose levels, and long term blood sugar control significantly.

But as you might recall, it’s just one published study among many.

Truth is, green tea is easily one of my most popular topics. And that’s for a really good reason: namely, EGCG.

Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is an incredibly powerful polyphenol. And green tea is packed with it–which is why it plays an indispensable role in the fight against a long list of serious health issues. (Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease, gum disease, obesity… you name it.)

Of course, green tea is just one type of tea. There are so many others out there–oolong, black tea, white tea, red tea. The presentation at the Botanical Garden explained the difference between these varieties quite nicely. So I thought I’d share some of that information with you today.

The four main polyphenols in tea leaves are EGCG, epigallocatechin (EGC), epicatechin gallate (ECG), and epicatechin (EC).Green tea contains as much as 40 percent of these compounds, with a particularly high level of EGCG. (The most powerful of the bunch.)

Black tea, meanwhile, contains only 10 percent at most. And oolong tea falls somewhere in between. It all depends on the level of processing involved.

All of these teas come from the Camellia sinensis plant. But black tea is oxidized, or “fermented”–which simply means that the leaves are crushed to release their natural oils. These oils then react with oxygen in the air, which changes the appearance and aroma of the tea… not to mention its polyphenol content.

Green tea is completely unoxidized. Oolong and white teas are both partially oxidized. That’s why all these teas vary in color and flavor. And also why they deliver different benefits.

Obviously, the spotlight primarily falls on green tea. But even plain old black tea can make a huge difference to your health.

Just last year, I told you about a Swiss study that showed that black tea consumption is linked to lower diabetes rates, too. (Black gold, 12/06/12) And since oolong and white tea feature similar polyphenol profiles, suffice it to say that they’re hardly worthless choices, either.

Then of course, there are herbal teas. Like antioxidant-rich red rooibos. Or chamomile, which is both calming and packed with a cancer-fighting compound called apigenin.

The list goes on… but you get the picture. Tea is just plain good for you.

Assuming you hold the sugar, of course. And assuming you select a product of halfway decent quality. (In other words, we’re not talking about the pre-packaged bottles you can pick up at convenience stores.)

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests that those so-called “healthy” grab-and-go green tea drinks contain just a fraction of the EGCG that you’ll find in home-brewed green tea. (Hand-picked loose leaf is best.)

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to make myself a nice big pitcher of iced green tea right now. In the dog days of summer, it really doesn’t get any better.